75 detained over alleged Gülen links in a week

Turkish government has detained of a total of 75 suspects in a week due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, according to reports by Turkish media.

Turkish police on Tuesday detained 24 people, most of whom are active duty military officers from the Land Forces Command, in operations across 10 provinces. The detentions took place as part of an investigation overseen by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

On Wednesday 11 people were taken into custody in the western provinces Bursa, Çanakkale and Balıkesir based on detention warrants issued by the Balıkesir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office over alleged Gülen links.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members, and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Forty people, nine of whom are active duty officers at the Naval Forces Command, 20 former military cadets and one civilian, were taken into custody today in seven provinces based on detention warrants issued by the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office. According to its statement, the office issued detention warrants for a total of 53 people. The suspects are accused of communicating with alleged members of the Gülen movement via payphones to avoid detection.

The so-called “payphone investigations” are based on call records. The prosecutors assume that a member of the Gülen movement used the same payphone to call all their contacts consecutively. Based on that assumption, when an alleged member of the movement is found in call records, it is assumed that other numbers called right before or after that call also belong to people with Gülen links. Receiving calls from a payphone periodically is also considered a red flag.

According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government also removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs on alleged Gülen links following the coup attempt.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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